Coronavirus: The situation in the Canton of Basel-Stadt

12/11/2020 (14:00)
Press release
Department of Health

Head of the Department of Health Lukas Engelberger, cantonal physician Thomas Steffen, Peter Indra, Head of Healthcare, and Werner Kübler, Director of the University Hospital of Basel, gave their views on the situation in the Canton of Basel-Stadt in a digital media conference today. The week ahead looks difficult: There needs to be a lasting decrease in the number of infections and the situation in the hospitals needs to ease. If this is not achieved, it is possible that further measures will have to be considered to keep the pandemic in check.

Compared with the rest of Switzerland, the Canton of Basel-Stadt is in a good position, but it too is at a tricky point. Head of the Department of Health Lukas Engelberger: “The situation is unstable and serious. Covid hospitalisations are now rising rapidly, with the predicted time-lag. We are doing a lot to increase capacity. But capacity is not unlimited. We need to prevent the hospitals from collapsing in the next two weeks.”

Lukas Engelberger indicated that mobility in the population is currently too great. “Please work from home if you are able to do so. This will help to reduce the amount of possible contact with others.” If it is not possible to lastingly drive back the number of new infections in the coming weeks, hospital capacities will increase further with a time-lag. There is great respect for this. “It’s important now that we all keep sticking to the rules. I would like to ask everybody to follow the hygiene rules and codes of conduct. I would also like to thank people for the patience, discipline and staying power they have shown so far. We have to keep relying on this.”

In his remarks, cantonal physician Thomas Steffen put the focus on reinforcing the contact tracing team. The team was expanded in recent weeks and has moved into larger premises. The contact tracing team is currently made up of staff from the Department of Health and members of the Civil Defence Organisation. The Department of Health has recently recruited around 30 people from spontaneous applications from the population. The contact tracing team is currently being gradually built up by employees from across the whole of cantonal administration. The focus at the moment is still on supervising people who have tested positive and are in isolation. Supervision of contact persons in quarantine is currently being expanded again.

Infoline 0800 463 666

The Canton’s infoline (0800 463 666) that has existed since the start of the pandemic is also being bolstered with staff from administration. It is being merged with contact tracing in terms of location and organisation in order to achieve synergies in the organisation and to develop knowledge.

The situation in Basel hospitals

In his remarks, Peter Indra, Head of Healthcare, outlined the cooperative concept, i.e. the cooperation between the Basel-Stadt hospitals, and the arrangement of intensive-care capacity with the Canton of Basel-Landschaft. Given the current developments, it must be assumed that the number of hospitalisations and treatments in intensive-care units will be considerably higher than it was in spring. The maximum for the healthcare area of both Basel cantons is currently around 300 patients in hospital at the same time, around 50 of whom in intensive-care units. He is confident that treatments can be carried out up this capacity without compromising on quality. Compromises on quality must be feared if hospitalisations rise beyond this level.

He and Werner Kübler, Director of the University Hospital of Basel, judge the situation in the intensive-care units to be concerning. The strain in normal wards is increasing sharply. Cases are expected to rise in the next two weeks, with a trend of doubling every week. Hospitalisations have so far tended to be of a shorter duration than in spring, however the average age was younger. That is currently changing, and it is to be assumed that the length of hospital stays will turn out to be as long as in spring. Covid patients spend up to several weeks in hospital. People who have had to be intubated have a long period of rehabilitation ahead of them before they get their strength back.